All hope lost for Braves? Not necessarily

Associated PressA Atlanta Braves fan watches during the ninth inning in Game 5 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Monday in Atlanta.

A potentially magical moment for the Atlanta Braves wasn't meant to be Sunday in Game 5 of the World Series.

Now Braves fans are left to wonder if this year will be another in a long list of heartaches for a franchise yearning for another World Series Championship.

The first inning Sunday night felt like this was the Braves time. A quick inning for hurler Tucker Davidson, starting in his first World Series game in what could have been the clincher for the National League Champions.

That was quickly followed by an offensive eruption from Adam Duvall who tomahawked a pitch over the right-center field wall for a monstrous grand slam that sent the Truist Park faithful into a frenzy, including yours truly off his recliner. It was then, I'm sure like others, that I thought this was the night the Braves would clinch their second championship in Atlanta.

Then the Houston Astros offense woke up, leading to a 4-4 tie. Yes, Freddie Freeman's solo blast gave the Braves another lead. But it was short-lived. The always dangerous Astros offense found its stride and pulled away from the Braves' bullpen; the team's improbable secret weapon this whole series.

So on we go back to Texas for Game 6 on Tuesday and potentially a Game 7 on Wednesday. Momentum has certainly swung back to the Astros. But momentum is also only as good as your next day's starting pitcher. From that standpoint, the Braves couldn't ask for a much better position to be in. Max Fried, the team's ace who has underperformed in the postseason, gets the start on Tuesday. He surrendered seven hits and six runs in five innings in Game 2. He is due to revert back to his second-half form when he was the best pitcher in baseball.

Ian Anderson is in line to start Wednesday. He was sensational in tossing five hitless, scoreless innings in Game 3 on Friday. There's no reason to think he can't duplicate that peformance if called upon.

If you're a Braves fan, you would have loved to see the Braves clinch in Atlanta, especially in front of a rabid fan base that has evoked memories of 1991 when the state was struck with Braves fever. But it wasn't to be. 

Dropping two straight over the next two days would rank up there with the franchise's heartbreaking losses, like the 1991 World Series when Kirby Puckett's homer in Game 6 and Jack Morris' masterpiece on the mound in Game 7 propelled the Twins past the Braves. Who can forget the 1996 World Series when the Braves held a 2-0 lead over the New York Yankees before dropping four straight, including three in Atlanta, highlighted by Jim Leyritz's three-run homer in Game 4? How about last year's National League Championship Series when the Braves lost a 3-1 series lead to the eventual world champion Dodgers.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Braves win or lose in Houston. I've grown accustomed to heartbreak over the years as a Braves fan. But I'm also clinging to hope that this year's team is different. That's what we Braves fans do – hope.

Clint Thompson is a special contributor to the Valdosta Daily Times.

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